Thursday, June 25, 2015

Structure and routine during the summer

“Your daughter officially finished 7th grade,” said my wife.

“Iujuuuu,” said I.

“No iujuuuu, it means my peace is gone.”

“Oh, oh.”

We are already there. It’s summer and there is no school. Parents’ peace, at least for part of the day, is gone. Behavior problems are creeping in. So it is a good time to review some “summer behavior management strategies.”

Remember: boredom is one of the main culprits of behavior problems in children. The lack of predictability that goes hand in hand with summer and the absence of regular routines can cause stress in children.

Parents usually assume that most children would be happier during the stress-free days of summer. But this isn’t always so. Many children do much better with routines that are more synonymous with the school year. When a child can anticipate what is coming it increases his sense of control and independence and therefore encourages cooperation. Having a familiar routine builds confidence and decreases anxiety.  

But not all is lost just because it is summer. If your child is not attending a summer camp or doesn’t have a daily activity to depend on, it is still possible to build structure and routines into the day. Some useful tips are:

- Maintain times and sequence of events as structured as possible. For example, stick to sleeping and eating routines.

- Since children feel more secure when they know what to expect, it is best to plan the day ahead of time and discuss it your child the day before.

- Build some choices into the day to help your child feel some control and nurture self-esteem.

- If necessary, use visual schedules (pictures, drawings, etc.) to cue a child about what is happening. 

- Present scheduled of activities in a positive manner and try not to be overly rigid. Some flexibility is always necessary. If you remain flexible and adjust your expectations, it will be easier to maintain a stress-free environment for your children.

- Plan physical outlets daily. Kids need to burn energy. Sitting in front of the computer or playing video games for hours long is a recipe for disaster. Planning play-dates at the park or at the beach could be good ideas. Going hiking and bike riding is always fun. 

- Watch what they eat. If your child is not overweight some “junk-food” is OK as long as you balance it with healthy food. Food is the main source of energy. Too much sugar and processed food have a direct effect on mood changes. When in doubt, consult with you pediatrician or a nutritionist.

- Plan some quality one-on-one time with your kids where they are the “boss” and you play with them. 

And finally, always include some free time in the day – children need some down time and it can be exhausting to be overly scheduled.

And have a happy summer!


Daniel Adatto, BCBA

Monday, June 8, 2015

A new take on Autism

I came across an interesting video on YouTube called “In My Language”, written by an Autistic adult. It depicts a very interesting angle on Autism and may answer some questions to those of us who have looked at autistic individuals and wondered what must be going through their heads. It also paints a picture of this father’s perseverance and determination while her daughter struggles with the isolating challenges of autism.

Overall it is an inspiring story that is dramatic but at the same time encouraging and offers a good glimpse into the mind of someone with autism. It shows how communication is paramount in the relationship with your children, and especially at this level of autism. For most behavior difficulties, communication emerges as part of the problem and is an essential part of the solution. If the behavior problem is related to the child’s communication needs, then teaching more effective communication skills needs to be a major part of the solution.

For this reason teaching and encouraging functional communication should be a key component of any intervention program. As teachers and parents we should take every possible steps to build healthy communication repertoires. And as the video shows, communication is not limited to talking. There is plenty of technology to compensate the lack of verbal communication. Pictures, signing, visual clues are some other ways you can help your child to communicate.

The first part of the video is in her "native language," and depicts a typical perspective of someone disabled, unable to communicate, weird hand flailing and repetitive movements. But then the second part provides a translation, or at least an explanation of how the autistic individual’s mind works. It is a wonderful statement about what gets considered intelligence, personhood, language, and communication, and what does not.

I think the point she very effectively communicates is that the fact that we don’t understand them, in their language, does not mean that they are the disabled ones. 

Let’s understand them. We should not give up. They are there, we just need to find them.

This is the link to the video.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA